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Selected Annotated Bibliography

B. D. Cotton. ‘Irish Vernacular Furniture’ in Regional Furniture, vol. 3. (pp. 1–26)

Furniture historian and author, Bernard (Bill) Cotton discusses Irish vernacular or traditional furniture and includes an in-depth description of individual furniture items including a three-legged chair from the National Museum Collections (F:2000.107). He suggests international comparisons in considering the chairs possible origins.

K. Danaher.  ‘Furniture’ in David Shaw-Smith. Traditional Crafts of Ireland. London, 2003. (PP. 67–71)

This seminal book on traditional crafts includes and chapter on Irish furniture in which Kevin Danaher (Caoimhín Ó Danachair) includes a note on what he calls the ‘Tuam Chair’. In the article, he note chairs of this type are still made ‘with skill and care’ by craftsmen in Co. Galway. An image of Vincent Killen sanding a Tuam chair in [Corrib Crafts] workshop is included.

E. E. Evans. Irish Folk Ways.  London, 1957

Evans explores the object of daily life, farming and customs and superstitions. He includes a brief description of the three-legged chair type stating that it is found in parts of the west and offers suggestions for its origins. ( p. 93)

Nicola Gordon Bowe. 'A Cotswold-inspired venture towards modernism in Ireland: Edward Richards Orpen (1884–1967) and the Grange Furniture Industry, 1927–1932' in Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1850 to the Present, vol. 27 (2003). PP 95–111

Gordon Bowe explores the life and work of Edward R. Richards-Orpen (1884–1967), founder of the Grange Furniture Industries in Co. Wexford. She explores the influence of the British Arts and Crafts Movement on his work. The article includes an image of the three-legged chair made by Grange Furniture Industries.

S. C.  Hall Ireland – Its Scenery, Character and History: vol. 3. London 1843, p. 294
Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889), and his wife Anna Maria (1800-1881) compiled a three volume guide to Ireland between 1841 and 1843. Each chapter is dedicated to a different county. The Halls describe seeing the three-legged chair in a relatively well-off household Co. Galway. They describe it as : ‘a singular primitive chair, very commonly used throughout Connaught’. An illustration of the chair is also published.
C. Kinmonth.  Irish Country Furniture and furnishing 1700–2000. Cork, 2020

Claudia Kinmonth’s Irish Country Furniture, 1700-1950 was published in 1993.  Irish Country Furniture and furnishing 1700–2000 published in 2020 extends the earlier publication notably including small furnishings and utensils and is illustrated throughout. The author provides descriptions and illustrations of furniture found the homes up to the early to mid  20th century.  Chapter One focus' on stools and chairs with pages 90-6 on the ‘Sligo’ chair, with visual sources. The chairs in the National Museum collection are referenced along with a theory of 16th century origins for the chair type. 

C. Kinmonth. Irish Rural Interiors in Art, New Haven, 2006

In this book, Kinmonth presents and explores interiors of modest Irish homes, particular in the 19th and 20th century created by artists in oil paintings, watercolours, sketches, drawings and engravings.
The artworks of American artists, Howard Helmick (1845-1907) and Mrs. J. Lizzie (fl.1873-1880) Cloud are discussed and illustrated. Both artist include representations of the three-legged chair in their artworks. Howard Helmick had a studio in Ireland in the 1870s and 80s and J. Lizzie Cloud an independent American artist and writer also travelled in Ireland in the 1870s and 80s.

C. Ó Lochlainn. ‘The Three-Legged Chairs’ in Béaloideas, vol. 32, 1964. (pp. 155–156) 

Béaloideas, the journal of the Folklore Society of Ireland was first published in June 1927. The aim of the society is collect, preserve and publish the folklore of Ireland. A short article by Colm Ó Lochlainn, publisher, on the Sligo / Tuam chair appeared in volume 32 of the journal.  Ó Lochlainn discusses the work of the chair-maker Thomas Durkan (Tomás ‘ac Dhuarcáin), from conversations they had together, including folklore relating to the chair. The chairs made the Hughes family, of Cloonkeely, near Tuam, Co. Galway are also illustrated.

P[].  ‘Ancient Irish Chair’ in The Dublin Penny Journal, vol. 1 (8), 1832, p. 64

The Dublin Penny Journal ran weekly for four years from 1832 and featured original articles on themes of Irish history and antiquities. An article published in 1832 is the first known account of what is today called the Sligo / Tuam chair. This article includes an illustration of the chair is captioned: ‘Ancient Irish chair’. It discusses the evolution of chairs and Irish design and describes this chair as an ancient oak chair from the village of Drumcliffe in Co. Sligo.

N. Loughnan.  The Irish Heritage Series: 46. Irish Country Furniture. Dublin, 1984

The Tuam/Sligo Chair is described and illustrated in this booklet on pages 5–7

J. Manners. Irish Craft and Craftsmen.  Belfast, 1992

This illustrated book of craftspeople includes a contemporary description of furniture making at Corrib Craft workshop, established by Al O’Dea. It includes a black and white photograph of the workshop. 

Website links

B. Barclay. ‘The History of the Sligo/Tuam Chair, with examples from the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life’ 

An informative overview of literature on the Sligo/Tuam chair and including descriptions of in the National Museum of Ireland Collection. Completed as part of the BA in Heritage Studies degree at GMIT Mayo Campus, in 2013

J. Hamilton. The Three legged Tuam Chair. 

An informative  article on the Sligo/Tuam chair with a focus on an example in the National Museum of Ireland collection ( F1956.22). Contributed as part of the National Museum of Ireland Documentation Discoveries Series published on the NMI Website.


Further selected reading - Irish traditional chairs

  • K. Danaher.  Irish Country Households. Cork, 1999

  • A. Gailey. ‘Kitchen Furniture’ in  Ulster Folklife, vol. 12, pp. 18-31

  • A. O’Dowd. Straw, Hay and Rushes. Dublin, 2015

  • T. P. O'Neill. Life and Tradition in Rural Ireland. London, 1977

  •  J. Teahan.  Irish Furniture and Woodcraft.  Dublin, 1994

 Further selected reading – English, Scottish, Welsh and Manx furniture history

  • R. Bebb. Welsh Furniture 1250-1950: A cultural history of craftsmanship and design. Saer Design, 2007

  • V. Chinnery. Oak Furniture: British Tradition. A history of early furniture in the British Isles and New England. Woodbridge, 1998

  • Cotton. Manx Traditional Furniture. Antique Collectors, 1993

  • Cotton. Scottish Vernacular Furniture. Antique Collectors, 2008

  •  S Jackson. ‘Chairs of the Northern Isles’ in Scotlands Crafts. Editor L. Butler, Edinburgh, 2000

  • Knell. English Country Furniture. Antique Collectors. 2000

  • C. Pickvance. ‘Towards a history of the origin and diffusion of a late renaissance chair design: the ‘caquetoire’ or ‘caqueteuse’ chair in France, Scotland and England’ in Furniture History, vol. 55. (pp 1-26)


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